You are currently viewing Chef Amerae Vercueil talks about Food That Loves You Back

Chef Amerae Vercueil talks about Food That Loves You Back

Food that Loves You Back explores the versatility of vegetables – in all their shapes, flavours, textures, colours and smells. For vegetarians, vegans and those simply looking for new dishes to try, this book is an example of how seamlessly plant-based food can fit into all facets of life: everyday living, celebrations, family gatherings and date nights.  

This former food editor of MyKitchen combines her wealth of experience as a chef, food stylist, recipe developer and health fundi to create striking images of veggies totally transformed.  


In the darkest months of the Covid-19 lockdown presented Amerae with an opportunity: to realise her goal of making a cookbook. She quickly set up a makeshift studio in her living room, studied up on food photography and got cooking. Just a year later, her e-book was published in print – her “dream come true” – as Food that Loves You Back.   

This collection of recipes is based on what Amerae enjoys eating on a daily basis. You’ll notice, too, that what she writes in her introduction is true: she enjoys combining fresh salad ingredients with cooked ones, and plays with texture and colour all the way through. Each chapter heroes at least two vegetables, sometimes prepared on their own and other times together.  


Amerae plays with classic dishes such as hummus and red lentil dhal, while also introducing new flavours such as butternut flapjacks with vegan cream, and green falafel soil with yoghurt-tahini and poached eggs.   

Amerae’s style of photographing the dish from above on a marble surface is simple yet effective. This, accompanied with her creative open styling, pushes each dish forward and emphasises the hero ingredient, creating an approachable and friendly mood at the table.  


“Plant-based eating is so much more than just putting vegetables or salads on a plate,” writes Amerae in the book’s introduction. “It offers the opportunity to experiment with different colours, flavours and textures, and discover how one vegetable can be transformed into a multitude of nourishing and tasty meals.”  


And she believes anyone, not only those following a vegan or vegetarian diet, can experience this, and should do so for the sake of their health. Adding a few of these recipes to your weekly rotation can help introduce more fibre, colour and flavour to a family’s diet, while the meat, cheese and other favourites can still be enjoyed.  

Amerae favours seasonal, local produce and encourages readers to do so, too: grab it when it’s at its best and you’ll get the best flavour, nutrients and quality, she writes. “When you love your food, it will love you back!”.  


Green falafel `soil’ with yoghurt tahini sauce and poached eggs 

Serves 2 • Total Time 15 Minutes 



2 Tbsp olive oil, for frying 
2 Tbsp sesame seeds 
2 tsp cumin seeds or 1 tsp ground cumin 
2 handfuls baby spinach leaves  
½ onion, finely chopped
1 handful leafy herbs (coriander, flat-leaf or curly parsley, dill, chives) 
1 can (400 g) chickpeas, drained, brine reserved  
3 Tbsp tahini
1 tsp pink salt and black pepper, to taste 


½ cup plain yoghurt or (V) coconut yoghurt  
2 Tbsp tahini  
Pink salt and black pepper, to taste 
1 Tbsp olive oil  
Rosa or cherry tomatoes (yellow or red) 
½ cup canned chickpeas, drained 
2 eggs, poached or fried  
1 cup green falafel mixture  
Baby spinach leaves or leafy herbs of your choice  




  1. Heat the oil in a small pan over low heat and toast the sesame and cumin seeds (or ground cumin) for 1 minute. Set aside. 
  2. Place the spinach leaves, chopped onion and herbs in a food processor and pulse for 5 seconds. 
  3. Add the chickpeas and pulse to a crumb-like texture. Add the toasted seeds and pulse. 
  4. Add the tahini and 2 Tbsp of reserved chickpea brine (known as aquafaba) and process until the mixture is just firm enough to shape into patties. (Add more brine or water if necessary.) Season to taste with salt and black pepper. If making ahead, place in a covered container in the fridge. 


  1. Combine the yoghurt and tahini in a small bowl, adding 1-2 Tbsp water, if it seems too thick. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. 
  2. Heat the olive oil in a small pan over medium-high heat and fry the tomatoes and chickpeas until warmed through and just taking on some colour. 
  3. Poach or fry the eggs according to your preference. 
  4. For each serving, spread 2-3 Tbsp of the yoghurt-tahini sauce on a plate. 
  5. To make the ‘soil’, sprinkle over ½  cup of the green falafel mixture, then add the warm tomatoes and chickpeas, and top with an egg. 
  6. Season to taste and garnish with baby spinach or leafy herbs. 


  • Instead of tahini, combine the yoghurt with 2 Tbsp sesame oil or olive oil or mayonnaise. 


Butternut flapjacks 

Serves 8 • Total Time 30 Min 


“This recipe is inspired by the gluten-free vegan flapjacks from Scheckter’s Raw Gourmet Health Food in Sea Point. I often crave them, but can’t always get there, so I created my own version of these ‘famous Cape Town flapjacks!’. For a breakfast treat, serve them with sliced bananas and strawberries, and top with vegan cream.”  



1 cup cooked butternut  
1 can (400 ml) coconut cream 
½ cup sweetener of your choice  
2 ¼ cups gluten-free flour  
1 ½ Tbsp baking powder  
½ tsp salt  
Tahini, for serving
Maple syrup, optional, for serving
Chopped fresh dates, for serving Sesame seeds, for serving  


¾ cup sunflower seeds or cashew nuts  
1 can (400 ml) coconut cream 
4 Tbsp sweetener of your choice 
1 tsp vanilla essence  
½ tsp pink salt  




  1. Blend the butternut flesh to a smooth purée. (If you don’t have a blender, mash with a fork until smooth.) 
  2. Place the purée in a mixing bowl with the coconut cream and sweetener, and whisk until well combined. 
  3. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and fold in. Be sure to mix thoroughly; the batter will be thicker than normal flapjack batter. 
  4. Preheat a non-stick pan over medium-low heat. Spoon in 2 heaped Tbsp batter per flapjack, leaving space for them to spread. 
  5. Cook for 3 minutes, then turn and cook the other side for 2-3 minutes, until golden. Keep the finished flapjacks warm while you make the rest. 
  6. Serve the warm flapjacks with vegan cream [recipe below], tahini and maple syrup. Garnish with dates and sesame seeds. 


1. Blend the drained sunflower seeds, coconut cream, sweetener and vanilla essence until smooth. 

A note on butternut  

Roast a whole butternut and cool slightly before cutting in half, removing the seeds and scooping out the flesh. About 550g raw weight should yield 500g (2 cups) when cooked. Instead of butternut, use the same quantity of cooked pumpkin or orange sweet potato. They’ll taste just as good!  


R340, Penguin Random House  


Words by Sjaan Van Der Ploeg 
Photography: Amerae Vercueil  

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